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Outcome mapping is an approach to planning, implementing and evaluating development projects. The focus is on the overall effect of the project on a community over time. This is in contrast to traditional methods that typically examine primary target impact only during the project. Outcome mapping attempts to document changes in community behavior in an attempt to promote those that support the program’s long-term intent. This methodology was developed by the International Development Research Center (IDRC), a Canadian economic and social development organization.
The behavioral changes of close partners, individuals and groups that are directly involved in a project are called results. Examining the results allows for training and resource allocation adapted to the community context. The behavior of people directly involved in a project can change the behavior of people less directly involved, and so on throughout the social matrix. Outcome mapping provides the tools to assess these changes and respond to them. It recognizes that sustainable change involves the interaction of outcomes unique to the project and the community in question.
Intentional design is the first stage in outcome mapping. Border partners are identified and typically included in the process at this point. The project overview is defined and the results needed to fulfill that vision are identified. It is considered how the project will be implemented to facilitate these results.
In the second stage, Monitoring Results and Performance, a project’s actions in relation to the progress of its close partners against stated goals are documented. These are behavior changes that can be linked to the project, although not necessarily caused directly by your actions. Comparison against a set of progress markers, which were defined in the previous design stage, allows for feedback and adjustment to the ongoing project management process.
Evaluation planning is the third stage of outcome mapping, where the criteria for evaluating the achievement of project goals are considered. Typically, this involves formulating an ideal, a best case, and a likely set of possible outcomes. Since program actions may not be the immediate cause of positive change, the methodology used may evolve over the course of a project.
In the mapping of results, success is a sustainable advance generated by the behavioral changes of the close partners. Changes may not be directly linked to project actions, but the project will always be a catalyst for that change. This approach is often used in conjunction with traditional assessment methodology such as Project Cycle Management (PCM) or the Logical Framework Approach (LFA). These methods emphasize the scrutiny of the design itself, in terms of quality control and implementation efficiency.